Sudha was a healthy 16-year-old student in South India. Now she is dead. It was not COVID-19 that killed her – not directly anyway. She was found hanging in the village of Ranganathapura at the end of last month, and died shortly afterwards at a nearby hospital. Sudha committed suicide, after being forced to marry a relative. Allegedly, police initially attempted to hush up the case, but eventually the parents of both the bride and the groom were arrested. The groom is still at large. The government body tasked with the prevention of child marriage told local press that the marriage remained unnoticed by the authorities for longer than usual because the responsible officer was not working, due to India’s coronavirus lockdown. If the marriage had come to the attention of the authorities earlier, maybe Sudha would still be alive.
Each year, 12 million female children across the world are married. That is nearly one girl every three seconds. Countries in West and Central Africa as well as South Asia have the highest prevalence of child marriage. In Niger, for example, 76 percent of women between the age of 20 and 24 were first married before they were 18 years old. In Bangladesh, it is 59 percent. While there are differences in prevalence within and across countries, child marriage remains a universal challenge, and occurs across regions, cultures, and religions. Continue reading “A license to rape”